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Live Like a Freelancer, Charge Like a Business

Live Like a Freelancer, Charge Like a Business
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Freedom! Independence! Coffee! These are the promises of a freelance life, and it’s a wonderful image. As I branched out from corporate life (got fired…again) I embraced the freelance ethos of not letting the man get me down, living life on my terms and working from coffee shops with a superior smirk at the ready, should some office bound hack come my way.

The problem is, freelancing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I found that while I liked the idea – and still do – I’m just not suited to it; I needed to find a way to get the best of freelancing, while taking the best things from corporate life – consistent income, the resources of others, the flexibility to work beyond the structures of an intermediary or freelancing site – without the gross parts that make me want to spit bile. I wanted to freelance while behaving like a business.

So I made a list of the things I wanted and didn’t want. I had to accept that some basics came with having a business, like budgets and product offerings beyond, “I do writing,” but there were clear lines in the sand – I would not work in an office, be restricted to office hours, or work with anyone who took themselves too seriously.

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Here’s the most important of those rules, adapted over time.

1. Act Like a Business

The perception of being a business of substance is important. Probably not to you, but your prospects like to feel comfortable engaging you, they want to sense there is more accountability than your promise.

  •  Invest in a website – you’re not as good at WordPress as you think (unless you’re a WP designer).
  • Find some good marketing automation software. Combine MailChimp with a marketing stack – Hubspot, Hootsuite, Sprout Social and Buffer are all good places to start. Spend some time creating a social calendar and a way to collect leads from your website.
  • Get an accounting system with invoicing capability – I use Xero, Quickbooks is awesome, but there are heaps of options out there.
  • Get a logo. I spent ages on this and eventually I just found a font I liked. Check out www.knighttime.com.au, for my mindbogglingly simple creation.
  • Get business cards. I hate business cards; they seem so dated in the digital age, but go to Moo.com and spend hours creating.

2. Charge Like a Business

Freelancers sell on price, and (good) businesses sell on value. When I started ‘being’ a business, I had to put up my prices for new clients – because businesses charge more. This was good news, both for my clients and I, because there was increased accountability from me, and realistically, I was (and am) still charging below market rates. That’s cool because I have overheads so low I could bump my face on them, and businesses are far less price sensitive than freelancers.

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I’ll talk more about packaging in a later blog, but in the meantime define at least two offerings that you can charge for, either on an extended project basis or as a monthly commitment. If this is intimidated, do what I do – use it as a guarantee.

“If you don’t like our work, just stop – there’s no commitment.” It’s a powerful statement, because it increases accountability again, and it’s true. The best guarantees are crystal clear with no positioning and offer genuine peace of mind.

3. Tack On Offerings

One of the most frustrating parts of being a freelance writer was when I had to leave money on the table. “Can you do web design? I need this blog to look awesome.” “Do you know Photoshop?” “Can you create my logo?” Every time I had to shake my head and walk away, knowing that I’d likely opened the door to another freelancer who would gladly claim to be a writer despite their lack of, you know, writing experience.

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Now, I have a little group of loyal peeps who I’ve tested and used on heaps of engagements. They understand that when they deal with a client, they’re my team member and should act as such. Why would they do this? Because I get them paid! I don’t clip the ticket too much, treat them fairly, remember they’re not your employees, and make sure the offering is still compelling for the client. Boom! More freelancers, doing their freelance thang.

4. Don’t Spend Money On Pointless Junk

Things are going well! Don’t listen to anyone who says you should move into a shared space – that’s called a library or a park. Don’t for goodness sake hire staff, even on a casual basis. Don’t upgrade the car (yet) and don’t think you’ve got the whole thing sorted. The strength of freelancing is adaptability – you can be fluid according to market conditions and adapt your offering, marketing, structure or…well, anything if needs be.

I mentioned my low cost base – that’s advantageous, not only from an adaptability point of view, but also for authenticity’s sake. You see, I don’t care about the Mercedes, the big office or the bottles of champagne…and that brings me to the most important point.

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5. Define What You Want, and Do That Fearlessly

I want to sit on the beach, in a park, or wherever with the sun on my face, and a skateboard, headphones, and coffee not too far away. I passionately want to create works that matter to my clients. I like working hard, but on my own terms.

None of these things may resonate with you, and that’s fine. Define your vision, and force it into life by being an epic freelancer, who runs their own business. Begin with the right mindset and the right clients, freelancers and supporters will show up.

Featured photo credit: Camille Kimberley via Unsplash via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Rhys Knight

Head of Content at www.knight.global

Hacking Your Beliefs Can Change Your Life Reprogram Your Brain, Change Your Life Want To Be Authentic? Speak To Your Inner Child How To Write Content That Matters 3 Steps to Being Fearless, Epic & Free In 2017

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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